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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?

A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation, as He is offered to us in the gospel.

1. 'Children,' says Richard Cecil, 'are capable of very early impressions. I imprinted on my daughter the idea of faith at a very early age. She was playing one day with a few beads, which seemed wonderfully to delight her. Her whole soul was absorbed in her beads. I said, "My dear, you have some pretty beads there?" "Yes, father." "And you seem vastly pleased with them? Well, now, throw them behind the fire." The tears started into her eyes; she looked earnestly at me, as if she ought to have a reason for so cruel a sacrifice. "Well, my dear, do as you please; but you know, I never told you to do any thing which I did not think would be for your good." She looked at me a few minutes longer, and then summoning up all her fortitude, her breast heaving with the effort, she dashed them into the fire. "Well," said I, "there let them lie; you shall hear more about them another time; but say no more of them now." Some days after, I bought her a boxful of larger beads and toys of the same kind. When I returned home, I opened the treasure, and set it before her: she burst into tears of excessive joy. "These, my child," said I, "are yours, because you believed me when I told you to throw those paltry beads behind the fire; your obedience has brought you this treasure. But now, my dear, remember as long as you live, what faith is. I did all this to teach you the meaning of faith. You threw your beads away when I bade you, because you had faith in me, that I never advised you but for your good. Put the same confidence in God; believe every thing that He says in His Word. Whether you understand it or not, have faith in Him that He means your good."'

2. Walter Marshall, author of The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, having been for several years under distress of mind, consulted Thomas Goodwin, an eminent divine, giving him an account of the state of his soul, and particularizing his sins, which lay heavy on his conscience. In reply, Goodwin told him he had forgotten to mention the greatest sin of all, the sin of unbelief, in not believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins, and for the sanctifying of his nature. On this he set himself to the studying and preaching of Christ, and attained to eminent holiness, great peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Marshall's dying words were these: 'The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.'

3. A student at a theological academy was brought, in the course of providence, into the company of a young lady, who was just recovering from a dangerous illness. Speaking of her illness among other things, she said, 'At one time I sent for my parents, and beloved brothers and sisters, and took, as I thought, my last farewell of them. The physicians had given me up, and my friends expected to see me no more.' 'We seldom meet with a person,' said the student, 'who has been so near to death as you have been. Tell me what were your feelings when you were on the verge of eternity?' 'I was happy,' she replied. 'And will you please to tell me what were your prospects?' 'I hoped to go to heaven, of course.' 'Had you no doubts, no fears, no suspicions?' 'None.' 'Perhaps almost all hope to go to heaven,' said the young man, 'but I fear there are very few who have a good foundation for their hope. On what was your hope founded?' 'Founded!' she replied, 'why, I had never injured any person, and I had endeavoured to do all the good in my power--was not this sufficient?' 'It is a delightful reflection,' said the student, 'that you have never injured any person, and it is still more delightful to think that you have done all the good in your power; but this is a poor foundation for a sinner to rest upon—was this the foundation of your hope?' She seemed quite astonished at the question, and eagerly inquired, 'Is not this sufficient?' The student did not give a direct answer, but observed, 'I am very thankful that you did not die.' 'What! do you think I should not have gone to heaven?' 'I am sure you could not in the way you mentioned. Do you not perceive that, according to your plan, you were going to heaven without Christ?—a thing which no sinner has done since Adam fell, and which no sinner will be able to do while the world stands. Be very thankful that you did not go out of life resting on this delusive foundation; for had you done so, the moment that you entered eternity it would have given way, and you would have fallen through it into the bottomless pit. Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh to the Father but by Me." 'God carried home this word to her soul; light broke in upon her mind. From that day a decided change took place in the young lady's views; and a corresponding holiness, and love, and zeal, and usefulness adorned her life.

4. Dr. John Mitchell Mason, of New York, was requested to visit a dying lady who, together with her husband, openly avowed infidel principles, though they attended his ministry. On approaching her bedside, he asked if she felt herself a sinner, and her need of a Saviour. She frankly told him she did not, and that she believed the doctrine of a Mediator to be all a farce. 'Then,' said the doctor, 'I have no consolation for you, not one word of comfort. There is not a single passage in the Bible that warrants me to speak peace to one who rejects the Mediator provided; you must take the consequences of your infidelity.' He was on the point of leaving the room, when one said, 'Well, if you cannot speak consolation to her, you can pray for her.' To this he assented, and kneeling down by the bedside, prayed for her as a guilty sinner just sinking into hell; and then arising from his knees, he left the house. To his great surprise, a day or two after, he received a message from the lady herself, earnestly desiring that he would come down and see her, and that without delay. He immediately obeyed the summons. But what was his amazement, when, on entering the room, she held out her hand to him, and said with a benignant smile, 'It is all true—all that you said on the Sabbath is true. I have seen myself to be the wretched sinner you described me to be in prayer. I have seen Christ to be that all-sufficient Saviour you said He was; and God has mercifully snatched me from that abyss of infidelity in which I was sunk, and placed me on that Rock of Ages. There I am secure: there I shall remain—I know whom I have believed.' The minister's prayer, through the divine blessing, fastened on her mind; she was convinced of her guilty state, and enabled to rest wholly on the Saviour; and after solemnly charging her husband to educate their daughter in the fear of God, she died in peace.

5. A Franciscan friar, preaching during 1546 in Imola, Italy, told the people it behoved them to purchase heaven by the merit of their good works. A boy who was present exclaimed, 'That's blasphemy, for the Bible tells us that Christ purchased heaven by His sufferings and death, and bestows it on' us freely by His merits.' A dispute of considerable length ensued between the youth and the preacher. Provoked at the pertinent replies of his juvenile opponent, and at the favourable reception which the audience gave them, 'Get you gone, you young rascal! (exclaimed the friar) you are but just come from the cradle, and will you take it upon you to judge sacred things, which the most learned cannot explain?' 'Did you ever read these words--"Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God perfects praise?"' rejoined the youth; upon which the preacher quitted the pulpit in wrathful confusion, breathing out threatenings against the poor boy, who was instantly thrown into prison.

6. David Dickson, once Professor of Divinity in Edinburgh, being asked, when on his deathbed, how he found himself answered, 'I have taken my good deeds and bad deeds, and thrown them together in a heap, and fled from them both to Christ, and in Him I have peace.'

This material is taken from THE SHORTER CATECHISM ILLUSTRATED by John Whitecross revised and republished by the Banner of Truth Trust edition 1968 and reproduced with their permission.

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